Each week in The Female Gaze, Faith Newport engages the trends, events, and issues that affect women—and the men who care about them.
Between one thing and another this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about this piece from Good Women Project. While I don’t agree with everything in it, something about what the author said regarding self-worth sounded familiar to me. I don’t struggle with a pornography habit, but I’m in love with someone who does—and whenever it makes an appearance in our relationship, I head into a downward spiral of doubt, loathing, and resentment. It’s not pretty.
My husband, who is in every other respect a truly fabulous man (and a great catch), has had to listen to more than his fair share of my insecure ranting over the course of our relationship, so I asked him to list the things he hears the most during those times. In no particular order:
“I feel like I’m trying to be perfect”
“I’m not good enough”
“I hate my body”
“Our marriage is a sham”
“You only care about sex”
“Our relationship is shallow”
“I should be better–what can I do?”
“My problems push you towards other things (i.e., porn)”
“We’re not happy/We’d both be better off apart”
While I’ll never try to tell anyone that pornography isn’t a serious problem—looking into my husband’s hurting eyes after he backslides even a little will forever convince me otherwise—I’m having to face the reality that the person who was hurting our relationship the most was me.
Most of the statements above are focused on one person: Me.
Isn’t porn a serious betrayal? Of course it is. But that doesn’t justify how I was choosing to treat Joshua as a result. Jesus said we have got to turn the other cheek, and that means looking the other person in the eyes and loving them despite the possibility of getting hurt again—or even the certainty of it. Instead, I was letting my insecurities dictate my response to a man who has always given everything he has to show me that I am first in his heart, a man who is tender with me, a man who is genuinely good in so many ways and reflects Christ to me whenever I am lost. And then I let that response trigger distance and mistrust between us. All because I doubted my own worth.
Ladies, let’s make one thing very clear: Your worth, our worth, is not determined by our bodies, or our seduction skills, or our ability to make a man want us more than the airbrushed model in a bikini. You are not the ones required to fight this battle. Before I got married, several women I look up to told me that once I was his wife there would be “things I could do.”
There’s nothing you can do. It’s not about you.
It will still happen after you buy that cute outfit, lose the weight, dance to sexy club music in your lingerie, or try that new position. It will still happen if you had sex five times that week (above average, by the way), and even if there were tons of fireworks.
Fireworks by the bucketload, and it won’t work. It’s not about you.
My husband and I have been married for almost a year. We’ve been a couple for five. This has been the thorn in our sides the entire time, both before and after our marriage. He struggled with pornography long before he met me, and it didn’t stop when we got together.
It’s not about me—but I made it my problem anyway and decided to bend over backwards trying to fix it. I tried everything, including the Christian-y stuff like prayer and accountability. I even fasted for several days at one point and gave up chocolate for almost a month. Ugh. Looking back, I had a lot of self-righteous determination and very little faith about the whole thing. The truth is, any issues that anybody has are firmly God’s job to take care of. We can set our boundaries and point out some helpful Scripture references that make it obvious how downright damnable their behavior is, but that’s about it. And, really, I don’t even want to do that most of the time because I’ve got too many logs in my own eye more often than not—which leaves me on pretty shaky ground when judging others.
The only way for Joshua to win his inner battles with sexual temptation has been for him to take them to the Cross and leave them there. And not in a one time, conversion-type way, but every single time and after every temptation and every failure. It may not always “fix” things on the outside, and it won’t always end the behavior pattern, but when you give something to God with 100% of yourself, in His grace that counts as victory anyway.
So, where does that leave us, girls?
We need to give grace to ourselves. We need to let ourselves be the size we are, have the sexual appetite we have, and look the way we do. We have to let the love of God extend to our selves enough to accept that even the best version of us isn’t going to look like the girl on the screen.
And then we have to let the love of God be there for our men.
It’s not easy, I know. But, once I’ve done that, it’s going to be a lot easier for me to deal with my husband’s inevitable humanity. I can be kind to him, I can forgive him, and I can be by his side as he gets back on his feet—because it’s not about me. The grace is for both of us.
Not only is that a beautiful thing, but I dare say it might even be sexy.